Radio Movie Review Essay

The Movie "Radio" Analysis Essay

964 WordsMay 14th, 20114 Pages

Radio, Film analysis

The dramatic and uplifting movie “Radio” starring Cuba Gooding JR. and Ed Harris, is based on the true life story of James Robert Kennedy, a k a Radio; a mentally retarded young African-American who spends his days pushing a shopping cart around the streets of Anderson, a small South Carolina town, collecting junk and old radios.
The movie starts with the heartbreaking scene of Radio pushing his cart around the town, in his own little world; people are ignoring him, and a lady pulls her daughter out of the way, running towards the opposite sidewalk. Every day Radio walks by the school, watching the football team training. While lingering by the fence of the high school football field one afternoon, the boy catches…show more content…

For Christmas, Radio spends time with Coach Jones’ family, and receives presents from people all over the town. The next day after Christmas Radio does what probably not many would do, he took all the presents and put them at people’s door, wishing them “Marry Christmas”. The joy that there was on his face while he was doing that was greater than when he received the presents. Through this action Radio teaches an amazing lesson of giving, loving, and selflessness. After his mother dies, Radio is heartbroken and alone. Coach Jones continues to be by his side, and in a moment of honesty, decides to share with his daughter why was he doing what he was doing with Radio. He tells her the story about when he was a young boy and while training through the woods, he saw a boy about his age, kept inside a fenced area. He did not know what was wrong with him, but though he ran that route for two years, he “never did anything about it”. Radio appears to be his second chance to do something, a chance to redeem himself, to make a difference. Though more people become sensible to Radio, the coach's mentoring incites angry opposition from a local banker, Frank Clay whose bullying son, Johnny is the town's star athlete. Frank and his friends think that the football team is distracted by Radio’s cheerleading and that he attracts too much attention. When was

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His courage made them champions.

The time is 1976, the place Anderson, South Carolina. Harold Jones (Ed Harris), the local school's football and basketball coach, discovers some of his players bullying a retarded young black man (Cuba Gooding Jr). Immediately, and with as much passion and drive as he puts into his coaching, Harold devotes himself to the welfare of James Robert Kennedy (nicknamed 'Radio' owing to his love of transistors), letting him help at the sports practice sessions and integrating him into the school itself, and the broader community. At first Radio's widowed mother (S. Epatha Mekerson) is suspicious, Harold's wife (Debra Winger) and daughter (Sarah Drew) are jealous, the school principal (Alfre Woodard) is worried, and the star player's father (Chris Mulkey) is furious, but as Radio gradually emerges from his shell, the whole town comes to accept and love him.

With its homely female voice-over, its setting in the south, its community values offset by simmering smalltown prejudice, and its stirring soundtrack full of pathos and sentiment, 'Radio' is determined to place itself in the tradition of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' – but while the resolute decency of Coach Harold Jones certainly revives the spirit of Atticus Finch, what 'Radio' lacks is any hint of the gothic menace which made 'To Kill a Mockingbird' so gripping. Everyone in 'Radio' is either nice, darned nice, or a bit mean (but basically nice), leaving little room for drama. There are some harmless schoolboy pranks, occasional confrontations between the coach and his principal (in which they both always end up agreeing!), and a vague attempt by rebel parents to have Radio removed from the school and placed in care – but this is hardly riveting stuff, and you may well find that, not unlike Radio himself, you have difficulty sitting still in your seat.

What redeems 'Radio' from touchy-feely oblivion is the quality of the performances. Ed Harris delivers the requisite moral authority, but he also gives Harold a certain awkwardness to prevent him from seeming more than human. Rôles involving mental disability tend to attract grotesquely over-the-top acting (and, ahem, Oscars), but Cuba Gooding Jr's portrayal of Radio's retardation is miraculously understated, even if there is not in the end much to Radio's character besides an enthusiasm for football, an appetite for pie and an unappealing desire to hug everyone all the time.

'Radio' is based on a true story (indeed the real Harold Jones and James Robert Kennedy appear as themselves in the final images), but it plays more like an adaptation of the New Testament, with the Christ-like Radio and his apostle Harold preaching their gospel of love and kindness to a community of all too willing converts. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that – it is just a pity that there was not a bit more of Satan in the theological mix to spice things up.

It's Got: Impressive performances, and, er, lots of American football.

It Needs: To be a little less like Pleasantville and a little more like Dogville.

True story of smalltown prejudice that is too nice, mild-mannered and cloying for its own good.

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